Drive (2011, dir. Nicholas Winding Refn)
Starring Ryan Gosling, Cary Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks
There is a sort of anti-hero, noted in films like Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samourai or Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West, who is the epitome of the strong silent type. So too in Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive, we have the hero who chooses to act, rather than speak. Its also a role that matches so perfectly with its star, Ryan Gosling, its hard to imagine anyone else playing the part (Hugh Jackman was attached for a time). Drive is a deceptive film in its public perception, having been marketed as a Fast & The Furious analogue, though it is anything but. Drive is a methodical, existential, and ultimately pop 80s movie.
The Driver (Gosling) is an enigmatic, young man who works as a movie stunt driver by day and getaway driver by night. He’s the employee of Shannon (Cranston), a foolish veteran driver who has a penchant for getting himself into tight financial spots with the local mob (Brooks and Perlman). The Driver is pulled into the latest scheme, a bid to purchase a stock car and make money on the racing circuit. He also befriends his young neighbor (Mulligan), a single mother with a husband about to get out of prison.
Director Winding plays with our expectations of plot by creating a series of hooks that could lead the film into well trodden territory, however he never allows it to go there. For a moment it appears this will be a Transporter style film, then a switch to a racing movie, then a heist film, then a film about stuntmen, until finally it chooses to go its own way and end with a tinge of the supernatural. Refraining from naming The Driver lends to the mythic sense of the character. A lot of work was obviously put into the soundtrack and it lends another layer of mystique to the main character.
Drive is one of most unexpected treats of the year, that film you overlook and eventually see that blows you away. It has proven to polarize audiences based on their expectations going into it, but if you are fan of tightly crafted, methodically paced cinema then you will be rewarded by this one.